Aurora Colorado Chasidic Tale
Aurora Colorado Chasidic Tale
Originally published in the Intermountain Jewish News
(There is a word rarely seen in a newspaper. The word is “miracle.” If you use it, you sound like a crazy
friend of mine named Gary Tessler (he used to be a broadcaster, but that’s
another story) is a Funeral Director at Shalom Funeral Service in Denver. He was supposed to do a funeral at
Mount Nebo Cemetery
in Aurora one
morning. So, properly dressed in a
conservative suit and black hat, he placed the casketed deceased into the
hearse, latched the coffin in place so it wouldn’t slide around in the hearse,
and drove to the cemetery arriving there at 10 a.m., well before the funeral was
supposed to start. When
Gary arrived at
the cemetery, he went to the back of the hearse to open the rear door and
release the catches so that when the pallbearers were ready, they could get the
casket out. That’s when things went bad.
rear door would not open. And the key didn’t help. (Gary realized
that the casket wouldn’t fit out the front door. He can’t get the casket out. Now is a good time to worry.) So he went around to the front of the
hearse, climbed in and crawled back over the casket to try to open the door from
the inside. It still wouldn’t open.
Soon some members of the funeral party and workers at the cemetery joined
the effort. Not knowing what else
to do, Gary had
one of the cemetery employees climb to the back of the hearse over the casket
and kick the door from inside the hearse to try to get it open. (Great visual here) It still didn’t help. Gary called his
mechanic. After having Gary try several things, he
said “You have to postpone the funeral and bring the hearse back to the shop to
get the door open”. (This
was not covered in the training manual for funeral directors, the Talmud, a Leo
Rosten book of Jewish stories, or the prayer book.)
now 10:45, everyone has arrived for the service and the family is ready. Gary
tells the officiating rabbi, Rabbi Aahron Sirota of the Western Center for Soviet Jewry, they may have to
postpone the service because it is impossible to get the casket out of the
hearse. Wishing he were anywhere
but where he was, Gary started to walk over to the family to
postpone the funeral. How do you announce postponing a funeral? (Hi folks, come back tomorrow? This funeral has been postponed due to
technical difficulties? Yeah
I have to explain something or else the rest of the story won’t make sense. Traditionally when Jews want G-d to do a
miracle, we recite psalms. There
are different psalms for different purposes. We know that G-d responds to Jews saying
psalms. So the rabbis tell us to
then, Rabbi Sirota, approached the rear of the hearse and while reciting the
specific psalms to honor the deceased, turned the handle and opened the
door. The pallbearers removed the
deceased and the funeral continued without further incident.
the service, Gary went back to the hearse and closed the
rear door without thinking. He
stood for a few moments thinking and then just to reassure himself, tried to
open it again. Nothing
happened. The door wouldn’t open.
Even more puzzled, Gary drove the hearse back to Shalom and asked
the mechanic to repair it.
days later the mechanic delivered his verdict. This door could not have opened. The mechanism that allows the door latch
to be released, had broken off and fallen to the inside bottom of the door. Without that piece there was no way for
the door to open. This story was physically impossible. One of Gary’s colleagues, a devoutly religious
Catholic, wondered aloud if he should be bringing his religious issues to Rabbi
Sirota instead of his priest.
Maybe Rabbi Sirota does have special connections.
other hand, Rabbi Sirota was just doing what a Jew is supposed to; Reciting
psalms to honor the deceased.
(This story requires a conclusion. A standard way to write a conclusion is
to refer back to the beginning to tie the story together. But that would require using the word
that we don’t use in newspapers and I don’t want to sound like a crazy religious
fundamentalist. So I need to do it
may be Aurora Colorado’s first Chasidic